After Marcus Smart and Jeff Teague were both injured, Brad Stevens went deep into his lab.
He started Tremont Waters as point guard, played Payton Pritchard in a backup point guard role that could well remain his after Kemba Walker’s return, and let Jayson Tatum take on his part of the offensive.
Make that very insulting considering that Tatum’s subsequent 40-point, five-Trey, 13-on-13 free-throw performance saw the Celtics during their 126-114 win over Toronto in their COVID 19 in a steady flow held Tampa home.
It was the third over 40-year performance of Tatum’s career and gave Pritchard in particular an even bigger stage for his NBA beginnings. The rookie point guard shot 8-13 for his 23 points and also had eight assists at team level.
In fact, to his teammates, Pritchard may not even be a newcomer to eight games of his NBA career.
« Man, Payton doesn’t need anything. He’s a vet, ”said Grant Williams. « I feel old enough, he’s a guy who played at a high level in college. And then he sees the game really, really well. He plays with an intensity and a certain competitiveness that inspires others. And a great honor for him because any rookie that walks in can be jarred at any time, but for him to come in and lead this team not only in the second unit but sometimes in the first unit, it shows how much true control he has and how special a player is. ”
It seems that as early as Monday night, Pritchard earned his coach’s unwavering trust against a veteran backcourt tandem that owed an NBA title.
But even the pressure to play against Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet didn’t shake Pritchard, who only flipped the ball three times in 32 minutes. Only Tatum, at 33, played more.
« I mean he’s a competitive guy. I mean, two nights ago he had no points, he played 16 minutes, ”said Stevens. “Tonight he was able to find a bit of rhythm and play really well against a really good team with really good guards and a really good defense. I think that’s the rookie experience sometimes. I think he was more – he sure had more good nights than not. And we’re going to ask him to do a lot now. Fair or unfair to him, he has to be consistent for us so that we have the chance to be a good team. ”
Overall, it didn’t take the Celtics much to find a move. A 26-point half from Tatum pulled her out of an early 13-point hole. They soon opened a cavernous space for a team of Raptors who were struggling to find themselves in their temporarily adopted home in Tampa.
From Semi Ojeleye to the two Williamses Grant and Rob to Waters and Aaron Nesmith, the Celtics bank performed well on Monday evening.
« Tatum was great tonight, but we’ve had a lot of really good performances, » said Stevens. “On the second night of a back to back, for the second time this year, the guys came out with no excuses. We had a couple of people out there and just played the way we should play and that’s the standard. We let go of that at the end of the game, but I thought that for the most part the guys all did a good job. ”
Is it a half-break? Ojeleye has been a more aggressive offensive player this season and continues to play in minutes last night with a 12-point performance, three Trey and eight rebounds. This was after a 3-on-6 shot from downtown for the majority of his 11 points a day earlier in Detroit.
« I would say he just shot the open shot, » Stevens said when asked for a reason. « He’s had a few of those hard pull-ups that are end-of-the-shot shots that obviously don’t have a high percentage, but I think his jump shot of three is really good, and he’s been through the Time got better for years and a couple of his rides where he hits the rim and has a chance to get ready or hit the rim and / or get off or off he has gotten a lot better too. I thought he did a good job again tonight. Two really big performances in a row for him. ”
Grant Williams Dives Again: One day after not playing in Detroit, Williams threw himself in with a 14-point 5-on-9 performance that included 3-on-4 shots from downtown, back in the fight. All of Stevens’ reserves reacted well this time around when presented with more opportunities.
« Honestly, it’s all about being mentally ready, » Williams said. « Physically, you are ready no matter what. It’s always been trust to me, Brad – he knows what he’s doing for a reason or purpose, and I believe it. I try to stay focused whether I play or not and to be ready when my number gets called because you never know if you are going to play or not. You never know when to perform, and tonight was probably my night. ”
Since his namesake dominates: Robert Williams put 11 points and 15 rebounds into his 20-minute stint.
« He’s a monster, he’s an over-athletic beast, » said Grant Williams. « He played his butt off and he’s going to keep doing it because he does. There aren’t many people in this league who can offer that. It protects the rim at high speed, drops the ball and brings you back. It’s ridiculous what pieces he does. That’s what makes him so special. ”
Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Jayson Tatum, NBA, Marcus Smart, Fred VanVleet
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